I want to commend Michael Bushnell for his recent article taking a stance on behalf of former Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith. Chief Smith is one of the good guys and he’s been a very effective leader who has done an extraordinary job in arguably the most challenging time in law enforcement in decades.
Losing a leader of his caliber only exacerbates the leadership vacuum sucking the life out of this city, and it goes well beyond the police department.
As readers and even regional journalists, perhaps we give too much attention discussing The Kansas City Star and the “woke” editorial judgments that have contributed to the cratering of its readership. It’s well on its way to irrelevancy as a news medium in this region. Perhaps a buyer could step in to salvage things, but it would have to be a local source. If a large, distant newspaper chain were to step up and buy it, expect the same pathetic performance. As I told the current owner and operator, this city deserves a much better newspaper.
Just as dispiriting as the loss of a once-proud source of news has been, Kansas City suffers from a dysfunctional City Council and municipal government. I’m not sure what they think the KCPD will look like in the future, but this year alone, retirements on the force are close to four dozen, far outpacing the norm. This, I believe, has to do with loyal team members leaving concurrently with Chief Smith’s retirement, and the administration’s failure to support the KCPD.
If we thought we had issues during the civil unrest of 2020 and that first year of the pandemic, wait and see the erosion of staff, morale and effective policing if we can’t find a successor who can match Rick Smith’s commitment.
Here’s an example of life as it exists in Kansas City right now, and a measure of what Chief Smith, the KCPD, and law-abiding residents have been up against. On Sunday night, while working at our Freighthouse District office, the window of my truck was smashed. My wallet, tools and more was stolen. We quickly and thoroughly networked to locate where my credit cards were being used, and have obtained the cooperation of several retailers to share their high-definition videos.
I believe we have the evidence needed to apprehend and convict these pests. We intend to catch the bad guys and to prosecute. We’ve been victimized before, including the thefts of four—four!—Ford Super Duty trucks over the past seven years. Before Smith became chief, the response from the police to other incidents could best be described as indifference. Big change on his watch. I pray to God that we’ll not see a return to complacency within the department.
This city deserves a great newspaper. It also deserves a great police chief, and a responsible and trustworthy mayor and members of the City Council. I’m genuinely worried about what Kansas City looks like in the future, under the irresponsible control of those who think social justice can’t be achieved without tearing down our societal pillars.